The World’s Most Important Political Prisoner

The U.K.’s imprisonment of Julian Assange sets an example for authoritarian regimes to follow in their treatment of dissidents worldwide, writes Craig Murray.

By Craig Murray

We are now just one week away from the end of Julian Assange’s uniquely lengthy imprisonment for bail violation. He will receive parole from the rest of that sentence, but will continue to be imprisoned on remand awaiting his hearing on extradition to the U.S. – a process which could last several years.

At that point, all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the U.K.  have hidden behind will evaporate. There are no charges and no active investigation in Sweden, where the “evidence” disintegrated at the first whiff of critical scrutiny. He is no longer imprisoned for “jumping bail.” The sole reason for his incarceration will be the publishing of the Afghan and Iraq war logs leaked by Chelsea Manning, with their evidence of wrongdoing and multiple war crimes. 

In imprisoning Assange for bail violation, the U.K. was in clear defiance of the judgement of the UN Working Group on arbitrary Detention, which stated:

Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge. The Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the U.K., which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador. Mr. Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the U.K. has ratified.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe. (Wikipedia)

In repudiating the UNWGAD the U.K.  has undermined an important pillar of international law, and one it had always supported in hundreds of other decisions. The mainstream media has entirely failed to note that the UNWGAD called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Irian dual citizen detained in Iran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe might have been a source of potentially valuable international pressure on Iran, but the U.K.  has made her case worthless by its own refusal to comply with the UN over the Assange case. Iran simply replies “if you do not respect the UNWGAD then why should we?”

It is in fact a key indication of media/government collusion that the British media, which reports regularly at every pretext on the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case to further its anti-Iranian government agenda, failed to report at all the UNWGAD call for her release – because of the desire to deny the UN body credibility in the case of Julian Assange.

In applying for political asylum, Assange was entering a different and higher legal process which is an internationally recognized right. A very high percentage of dissident political prisoners worldwide are imprisoned on ostensibly unrelated criminal charges with which the authorities fit them up. Many a dissident has been given asylum in these circumstances. Assange did not go into hiding – his whereabouts were extremely well known. The simple characterization of this as “absconding” by district judge Vanessa Baraitser is a farce of justice – and like the U.K.’s repudiation of the UNWGAD report, is an attitude that authoritarian regimes will be delighted to repeat towards dissidents worldwide.

Her decision to commit Assange to continuing jail pending his extradition hearing was excessively cruel given the serious health problems he has encountered in Belmarsh.

It is worth noting that Baraitser’s claim that Assange had a “history of absconding in these proceedings” – and I have already disposed of “absconding” as wildly inappropriate – is inaccurate in that “these proceedings” are entirely new and relate to the U.S. extradition request and nothing but the U.S. extradition request.

Assange has been imprisoned throughout the period of “these proceedings” and has certainly not absconded. The government and media have an interest in conflating “these proceedings” with the previous risible allegations from Sweden and the subsequent conviction for bail violation, but we need to untangle this malicious conflation. We have to make plain that Assange is now held for publishing and only for publishing. That a judge should conflate them is disgusting. Vanessa Baraitser is a disgrace.

Assange has been demonized by the media as a dangerous, insanitary and crazed criminal, which could not be further from the truth. It is worth reminding ourselves that Assange has never been convicted of anything but missing police bail. 

So now we have a right-wing government in the U.K. with scant concern for democracy, and in particular we have the most far right extremist as home secretary of modern times. Assange is now, plainly and without argument, a political prisoner. He is not in jail for bail-jumping. He is not in jail for sexual allegations. He is in jail for publishing official secrets, and for nothing else. The U.K. now has the world’s most famous political prisoner, and there are no rational grounds to deny that fact. Who will take a stand against authoritarianism and for the freedom to publish?

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

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23 comments for “The World’s Most Important Political Prisoner

  1. Pap-a-lap
    September 21, 2019 at 17:04

    The 1972 Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service in journalism was awarded to The New York Times for publication of the Pentagon Papers, classified as top secret by the US Defense Department. Forty-seven years later, for the same “meritorious public service”, Julian Assange is a dead man walking. Putting him on the witness stand in his own defense will only allow him the opportunity to compound his real offense, exposing US government and institutional crimes. He has already been tried, convicted, and sentenced without due process, and it serves his persecutors no practical purpose to prolong their embarrassment by actually giving him his day in court. Celebrate his passing if you like, but consider taking just a moment to mourn the death of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution.

    “First they came for the journalists. We don’t know what happened after that.” – sign carried by a demonstrator protesting Assange’s arrest by British police.

  2. September 21, 2019 at 17:01

    The United Kingdom and its servile judges cannot be expected to respect international norms, if it does not suit the interests of Empire, NATO and the Oligarchy. Don’t forget that the United Kingdom has still to apologize and pay compensation to:
    1. The people of Palestine because of the Balfour Declaration of 1917
    2. The people of Afghanistan because of the war of aggression of 2001
    3. The people of Iraq because of the war of aggression of 2003
    and many more.

    Those who trample about the human rights of Assange will one day have to pay the price. Let’s pray that they feel some slight shame. Thank you Craig for your valiant efforts for Assange and for justice.

  3. Guiseppie
    September 20, 2019 at 10:35

    Thanks Craig. Eloquent as always.

    There is a name for governments that lock up people who expose their criminal activity. What was it again?


  4. jmg
    September 19, 2019 at 18:57

    Julian predicted this in 2011…

    Martha Rosler:

    “Is there an effective way to support you if the US succeeds in extraditing you? Have you set up a cadre to substitute for you if you are incarcerated?”

    Julian Assange:

    “The last time I was incarcerated, WikiLeaks continued publishing. The organization is robust to that extent. As for supporting me if I am extradited, I would say that it would be way too late. If people want to support us, they need to do it before I am extradited . . .

    “But if I’m extradited to the United States, or if one of our other people is arrested in the United States, they will be placed in maximum security for many years while some trial progresses, and their safety in that situation will not be guaranteed. Even if they’re technically innocent under the law, which probably anyone within WikiLeaks is—as I know that our activities are protected under the First Amendment—the verdict is still not guaranteed, due to of the degree of national security sector influence in the judicial process.

    “Such a trial would almost certainly take place in Alexandria, Virginia. . . .”

    WikiLeaks – In Conversation with Julian Assange Part II — 15 June 2011

  5. Jim Glover
    September 18, 2019 at 14:29

    Extradited or not, Julian Assange will remain a fighter for publishing the hidden truths of Government. I think the Governments UK and USA are afraid of putting him on trial for his publishing because a Trial will expose the evils that Governments do.

  6. Me Myself
    September 18, 2019 at 09:54

    The Us Justice Department orders federal death penalty reinstated. This year in 2019.

    Would this also assist Julian Assange’s defense?

    Would the UK send people to the US under extradition measures if they MIGHT… face the death penalty?


    • jmg
      September 18, 2019 at 17:27

      > The Us Justice Department orders federal death penalty reinstated.

      I’m afraid the UK government doesn’t care:

      “U.K. Satisfied Assange Won’t Face Death Penalty Or Torture—Signs U.S. Extradition Request For Wikileaks Founder

      “U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has approved the U.S. extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The certification doesn’t mean Assange is to be shipped to America, only that Javid has no objections to a judge hearing the case. It also means Javid believes that Assange won’t be tortured or face the death penalty should he be moved to the U.S. . . .

      “But the home secretary does have a small number of exceptions in the Espionage Act 2003 that allow him to refuse to certify an extradition request.

      “The most relevant in the case of Assange is the where the subject of an investigation ‘has been granted leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom on the ground that it would be a breach of Article 2 or 3 of the Human Rights Convention to remove him to the territory to which extradition is requested.’ Article 2 of that convention covers the ‘right to life,’ while Article 3 states, ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’

      “For Javid, that exception means that in this case he’s satisfied Assange faces neither the death penalty nor torture in America. The U.K. had previously pledged Assange wouldn’t be sent to any country where he could face a death penalty, according to reports.”

      U.K. Satisfied Assange Won’t Face Death Penalty Or Torture—Signs U.S. Extradition Request For Wikileaks Founder — Forbes — Jun 13, 2019

    • jmg
      September 19, 2019 at 19:15

      However, at least for now, in the US they are talking about prison, not about death penalty.

      And there is some hope for investigative journalist Julian Assange to stop his US extradition, concerning ADX Florence supermax prison in Colorado for spies, terrorists, etc. where — according to the Washington Examiner, etc. — he is currently expected to be sent for life:

      “Since 2007, the European Court of Human Rights has put a stay on the extradition of six men wanted on terrorism charges because of concerns about the treatment that would be in store for them at ADX.”

      US ‘supermax’ prison is condemned internationally for its abusive regime — 18 Sep 2012, The Guardian.

  7. Luc Pellerin
    September 18, 2019 at 08:35

    The Resistance movement during the nazi occupation of France was considered a crime punishable by death. We are at war and under occupation. The shareholders of the armament industrial complex is the enemy of humanity. They will stop at nothing to continue profiting from trillions of profits and to perpetuate these crimes against humanity.

  8. Cheryl Parker
    September 17, 2019 at 22:40

    I am frustrated with the media’s reporting on Julian Assange. People seem to have a tainted opinion about Assange, I believe from US-backed, UK-backed and even his home country, Australia-backed propaganda . CNN published an obviously biased story regarding Julian Assange’s conduct during his last few months from his asylum at Ecuador’s Embassy in London. How can the people help Assange? We who appreciate his courage, his devotion to getting out truth, we want his freedom restored to him, ideas, please.

    • Skip Edwards
      September 19, 2019 at 12:26

      Cheryl, Many of us around the world must share your concerns and frustrations re Julian Assange’s plight. If allowed to continue, any one of us could one day face his exact circumstances. Until enough of us are willing to get off our chairs and take to the streets to demand his freedom the only recourse remaining is to contribute monetarily to his legal fund and to his personal account for when, and if, he is freed. We must let him know that the world has not forgotten him.

  9. Jeff Harrison
    September 17, 2019 at 17:40

    What makes this situation totally risible in a caustic sense is the constant claims from The West that a number of countries that are non-West do not follow the “liberal” rule based order of these “free world” countries who frankly are authoritarian and arbitrary and not, in fact, liberal or rule based at all. This is not a situation where a constant repetition of their lies will convince anyone of their superiority. One would wish that they would shut up already.

  10. Sally
    September 17, 2019 at 16:33

    If we don’t recognise each others individualism there can be no dignity and without dignity there can be neither honour or justice and without honour and justice mankind will descend into the abyss

  11. Ikallicrates
    September 17, 2019 at 12:40

    Assange’s health has seriously declined during his prolonged stay in Belmarsh. The UK government obviously hopes he’ll die there, sparing the US government the embarrassment of whatever his testimony would reveal at his trial. And if he doesn’t co-operate, Assange will no doubt be “suicided”, as Jeffrey Epstein was. Epstein’s “suicide” was a dress rehearsal for Assange’s.

  12. Jill
    September 17, 2019 at 12:20

    This is very well laid out. Thank you for making the situation so clear.

    I think the world sociopath cabal is pulling out all the stops. They aren’t even pretending any more. This ruling is against UK law in every aspect. There’s just no hiding that fact. Meanwhile, in the US, the judiciary is closing ranks to protect pedophiles and punish their victims for speaking up.

    We just had a judge rule that since Epstein is dead the illegal consent decree he made with this govt. doesn’t matter. This is a truly illegal action. The agreement was not with the dead guy and his victims, it was made by the govt., by people in this govt. who are very much alive, in violation of the rights of the victims and against our law. Well, never mind, we must protect the powerful so the law needs to go!

    In every way, the powerful are closing down redress of grievance, shutting down justice. In so doing they are very much sending the message that they can and will do ANYTHING and that they can get away with it. They mean to crush dissent and justice completely–in any and all areas of wrongdoing.

    I hope there is something Assange’s lawyers can do for him, but everything depends on there being at least one judge committed to justice. I don’t know if such people exist any longer. If they do, I hope they will begin to speak out loudly and clearly. It’s there society at stake as well as the rest of ours. They should not be silent as victims pile up and societies which should be so much better, crumble before our eyes.

  13. Andrew F
    September 17, 2019 at 11:10

    “We are now just one week away from the end of Julian Assange’s uniquely lengthy imprisonment for bail violation.”

    Yes, a conviction which was not appealed against – Assange’s lawyers should have appealed on the basis that under the Bail Act there is a defence of “Reasonable Cause”. But they didn’t. Then he was obviously pressed to write his grovelling apology letter on the sentencing. In that letter he accepted that he had wrongly avoided coming to court under his bail conditions, no way in the world he would have instigated that approach. Then he filed an appeal against the 50 week sentence but that appeal was inexplicably dropped just days before the hearing. The reason given by Wikileaks was “we need to devote resources to fighting the extradition”. They also keep saying that in Belmarsh he can’t prepare his case against extradition. So which is it? Save money by keeping him locked up, where he can’t prepare, so that we can devote our resources to preparing? BS from the “PR Strategy” Craig referred to a while ago.

    “He is not in jail for bail-jumping.”

    Yes he is. That’s the whole point. If his lawyers had appealed against the conviction on the Bail breach then there would be no conviction and no sentence and he would be presumed to be free on bail while fighting the extradition. They didn’t appeal the conviction, so that’s gone. He filed an appeal against the 50 week sentence (I suspect he actually did this himself without the lawyers) and just days before it was to be heard his lawyers told the court it had been dropped. So, obviously, you have a self-confessed bail jumper who was sentenced to the max penalty for jumping bail and the prospects for getting bail while on remand fighting the extradition start to look pretty slim.

    And his lawyers DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR BAIL???

    I’m a commercial Barrister (Australia) who doesn’t do criminal law, but recently I did a favour for a friend and ran a Supreme Court bail application for his son who was up on serious drug trafficking charges and we got him out on bail with strict conditions.

    Forget the Deep State and the 1%, the immediate enemies of Assange’s freedom are his inner circle (who are silencing him – we haven’t heard directly from him in 18 months), and his “Legal Team”, who don’t seem to be doing anything to get him his voice back.

    Thankfully there appears to be a growing number of grass roots Assange supporters who are questioning and challenging this silencing by the inner circle.

    • hetro
      September 17, 2019 at 17:29

      Specifically, “he is no longer imprisoned for jumping bail.” You have misinterpreted Murray’s comment.

      That is, Murray points out that having served his time further incarceration is not for jumping bail. It is simplified and distorted to his alleged risk of absconding.

      Yet his record does not sustain this rancid view. For two years from 2010 he wore the ankle bracelet and checked in with police daily prior to very publicly going to refuge in the embassy. He has publicly also refused to be spirited out of that refuge, prior to being put up at Belmarsh. Further, as Murray correctly emphasizes, he has no criminal record–the only problem being the rabid exhalations from the US over his being an honorable whistle-blower.

      That a judge in the UK can join with this vitriol suggest there needs to be serious reconsideration of her at this post. Justice surely must be grounded on the principle of good versus evil. It is only via demonizing Assange that he can be construed as evil. Instead, we have a gestapo-like treatment of one who exposes criminal behavior, from a criminally-inclined government.

  14. AnneR
    September 17, 2019 at 08:49

    Thank you Mr Murray for this further, and ever more depressing overview of Julian Assange’s reality and prospects.

    I would, however, question, in part, your assertion that the BBC (World Service here) reports on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe which have ignored the UNGWAD decisions, on her and Assange’s cases, are as they are simply because they (the state-funded, controlled medium) do not want to raise this UN body’s criticism of the UK’s treatment of Assange.

    Yes, they undoubtedly do not want the UK’s Assange dirty linen washed in public, especially to admit that the UK powers are (heaven forfend) criminal (the BBC have never, in my hearing of the World Service mentioned, whispered a word about the recent International court’s decision on the Chagos Islands, for instance) akin to authoritarian (although one could in fact probably make a strong claim that the regime in charge of the UK, since Thatcher at least, has been just that and every increasingly so) governments.

    But I think that one of the major reasons for the concentration on arrests and detentions of such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is that it is another stick with which to publicly beat up one of the nations hated by the west, hated for not coming to heel, hated for not allowing western based corporate-capitalist-imperialist control of that nation’s natural resources.

    Any and all opportunities to beat the drum, to distort the view, the truth even (we do not know, after all, whether or not Ratcliffe was in her birth country to help foment an uprising for the UK-US-IS powers, was spying or was simply distrusted by the Iranian authorities because of having been in the UK for years, nor are we likely to) against any of the current (and in the case of Russia continuous) “enemy” nations is used and abused by the state via the MSM, whether government funded or privately owned (by those hand in glove with state power, anyway). Orwellian, Bernaysian, and Goebbels all rolled into one.

  15. Eugenie Basile
    September 17, 2019 at 08:04

    Control the media, control the justice system and you will be a succesful dictator in any country.

    • Anonymous
      September 18, 2019 at 21:20

      Those two points alone don’t cut it. It works in this country because of other things such as social pressure (e.g. how people who aren’t nationalistic enough or who are too suspicious are placed on the fringe or worse). A country with pressure to challenge the legitimacy of things and to think for oneself would see a different outcome, but we are long past that phase here.

  16. Sally Snyder
    September 17, 2019 at 07:42

    Back in 2009, WikiLeaks released a fascinating document that clearly shows how the United Kingdom government should deal with groups or individuals that expose government secrets.

    The last thing that governments around the world want is for the light to shine on their secret activities, secrets which are under threat from investigative journalists and organizations like WikiLeaks.

  17. jmg
    September 17, 2019 at 03:09

    Something very important to remember, that was a game changer for Julian’s defense:

    “WikiLeaks recognised as a ‘media organisation’ by UK tribunal [The Guardian, 12/14/2017]

    “Definition by the UK information tribunal may assist in Julian Assange’s defence against US extradition on grounds of press freedom”

    • jmg
      September 17, 2019 at 13:31

      Also in the US:

      “In a historic win for WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange a federal judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) over WikiLeaks’ publication of DNC documents in 2016. The case sets an important precedent for freedom of the press.

      “In the 81-page ruling, District Judge John Koeltl emphasized the ‘newsworthiness’ of WikiLeaks’ publishing activities, describing them as ‘plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.’

      “Judge Koeltl importantly emphasized, ‘Journalists are allowed to request documents that have been stolen and to publish those documents.’ The Judge also observed that such journalistic collaboration with sources is ‘common journalistic practice.’ That principle is important for investigative journalists who often receive information from whistleblowers.

      “The Judge drew a comparison to the Pentagon Papers case of 1971, where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the New York Times and Washington Post to publish secret documents on the Vietnam War provided by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. In that case the Nixon administration attempted to prevent the newspapers from publishing and threatened them with criminal prosecution.”

      — Defend WikiLeaks: DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks dismissed in major free press victory (2019-08-03)

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